Every so often after particularly loud, dirty, and trying days in NYC, I think to myself: darn, monks sure do have it made: peace, quiet, and a whole lot of chill time. Then I snap out of it and realize how restless I’d become after day in and day out of tranquil reflection (and chanting). Still, a monastic life does have its perks … especially if it’s spent in a thoughtfully designed, eco-friendly monastery overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California's Big Sur.
A year ago today, I blogged about the Casa Chiara project, a remarkable green prefab convent in Denver designed by eco-architect extraordinaire Michelle Kaufmann. Well, Kaufmann apparently has a knack for making a cloistered life a more sustainable one because her vision for the newest, greenest edition at The New Camaldoli Hermitage in beautiful Big Sur has just been completed. Although the 1,737-square-foot residential care building started out as a Kaufmann project, it was completed by Studio 101 Designs after mkDesigns was shuttered in the floundering economy last year.
The building, used primarily as a health care facility for the community of Camaldolese Benedictine monks, is composed of four prefab modules that were factory-built in Oregon and shipped to Big Sur.
The monks of The New Camaldoli Hermitage have made a life commitment to stay at the monastery and their cells and therefore require on-site health care as they age. Wanting the building to be simple and humble, yet functional, we chose materials that are earthy, long-lasting and clean. The exterior is Corten steel (that won’t have to be refinished or repainted or have maintenance) with elements of of ochre integral colored cement board (and since the color is integral it also will not require maintenance, refinishing or repainting in the future). The interior is FSC-certified teak cabinets and the flooring is a strand-woven bamboo and slate. The walls are kept a simple white to allow paintings by the monks (a number of the monks are very talented artists). Solatubes are used to sculpt in natural light. The idea is that the peaceful beauty comes from the contemplation gardens, courtyards and the artwork to create a space for healing for decades to come.
Cool stuff. Learn more about the bookstore-running, pottery-and-art-making, gardening monks of The New Camaldoli Hermitage over at Kaufmann’s blog and at Contemplation.com (yes, Contemplation.com). 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Monks go modular in Big Sur
An eco-friendly, prefab infirmary designed for the very lucky -- and apparently very cool -- monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, Calif., is completed.